Russian Military Bombs Rebellious Region

MOSCOW--The Russian military rained bombs and rockets on the rebellious region of Chechnya to help its troops hold positions around the capital, Grozny, where they met stiff resistance from Islamic rebels. The Russian Information Agency said the guerrillas were strengthening defenses in Grozny and laying mines and traps.

Ukrainian President Begins Second Term

KIEV, Ukraine--President Leonid Kuchma took the oath of office for his second five-year term, promising radical governmental reforms and better living standards.

"You will see a new president before you," said Kuchma, whose shrewd campaigning persuaded hostile voters jaded by years of post-Soviet economic decline to give him a landslide win two weeks ago over a Communist rival.


Peacekeepers Arrive in Sierra Leone

LUNGI, Sierra Leone--Signaling the start of the largest U.N. peacekeeping mission in Africa in two years, U.N. and government officials welcomed about 130 Kenyan soldiers to this war-battered country yesterday.

But as the United Nations' blue-and-white flag was handed over at an airport ceremony, officials from the rebel group that ravaged Sierra Leone during an eight-year civil war were conspicuously absent.

The Kenyan troops were the first wave of a 6,000-member peacekeeping force. Minister for Presidential Affairs Momodu Koroma said he hoped the Kenyans' presence would accelerate the shaky peace process.

Officials Get Big Raises in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe--President Robert Mugabe tripled and quadrupled the salaries of top government officials, further straining finances in this troubled country.

With inflation at 70 percent and massive troop commitments in Congo, Mugabe called for his 52 cabinet ministers to receive more than $21,000 a year, according to the decree. Members of parliament received increases of nearly 300 percent, to $12,800.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions, the force behind the country's first major opposition group in 20 years, the Movement for Democratic Change, condemned the raises.


Pakistan Plans Corruption Trials

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan--Pakistan's army-led government will establish 100 new courts to try those accused of corruption and those who have delinquent bank loans, its new military ruler said.

Recovering loans and illicit wealth was one of the first promises made by Gen. Pervez Musharraf after the military ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Oct. 12, accusing his administration of runaway corruption that has driven the country to economic ruin.

Indonesian Meets With Separatist

JAKARTA, Indonesia--Indonesia's new president said he has tried secretly to meet with the exiled leader of the main secessionist group in Aceh province.

In a separate act of reconciliation, President Abdurrahman Wahid conducted unprecedented talks with Xanana Gusmao, the independence leader of devastated East Timor.

Less than three months ago, Gusmao was behind bars in Jakarta, jailed by the former government for leading a guerrilla war. Yesterday he was treated as an honored guest of the state that had made him a political prisoner for seven years. Wahid promised to establish close and friendly ties with East Timor, which is soon to become independent, to make amends for decades of brutal military occupation that ended this year in violence and destruction by anti-independence militiamen backed by the Indonesian army.


Iranian Killings to Be Investigated

TEHRAN--Iran's parliament has launched a widespread probe into political killings, going beyond the deaths of four dissidents last year, a prominent deputy said. Ali Movahedi Saveji, a leading conservative in parliament, told reporters a 15-member panel of deputies would start its probe next week.

"It is parliament's right to investigate and . . . all bodies which have information on the serial murders are required to make it available to parliament's investigation panel," he said.

"The investigation will not be limited to the last four murders. We will probe all suspicious cases."

Some reformers close to President Mohammed Khatemi have said more than 80 dissidents have been killed during the past decade.

Kuwaiti Women Denied Political Rights

KUWAIT CITY--Kuwaiti women lost the opportunity to participate in politics when parliament rejected a bill to give them the right to vote and run for office.

The 32 to 30 vote was the second letdown for women in a week in this conservative society. Last week, the all-male legislature killed a decree by the emir granting women political rights because most members said it was unconstitutional. Yesterday's bill, proposed by five liberal lawmakers, was seen as an acceptable constitutional replacement, but did not win the required approval by a simple majority vote.


"I reject in the strongest terms all allegations ... that political decisions made by me could be bought."

-- Helmut Kohl, former German chancellor, acknowledging that he had used a system of secret bank accounts to mask political donations --Page A36

CAPTION: A Russian mobile artillery unit fires near Chechnya's capital, Grozny.